The threat of sea mines once again showed its cold face in the Black Sea on 08 September. The Romanian minesweeper was damaged at the stern and lost its maneuverability due to the explosion. The Romanian Navy stated that the entire crew is safe and no one was injured. This incident was the ninth sea mine detection since the beginning of the Russo-Ukrainian war.
According to the Romanian Navy, Lieutenant Dimitrie Nicolescu left the port of Constanța at about 1:15 p.m. on Thursday, September 8, to neutralize a mine that had been detected and reported by another vessel named Falcon, which was conducting certain activities at a distance of about 25 nautical miles (46 km) in the direction of NE from the entrance to the port of Constanța.
The mine was reported by the Falcon at about 11:45 a.m., and Lieutenant Dimitrie Nicolescu deployed to sea one hour and thirty minutes after the detection.
The reports suggest that after the Romanian minesweeper arrived at the position of the mine, sea conditions deteriorated, making it unable to conduct the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) operation and deploy the RHIB. After dark, and with the weather continuing to be rough, the ship was struck by the floating mine. The detonation left a small hole in the stern of the ship, near the waterline.
The Romanian Navy shared on its Facebook account that the crew responded immediately after the explosion and prevented the water from entering by plugging the hole, which was just above the waterline.
The minesweeper Lieutenant Dimitrie Nicolescu returned to her homeport Constanta with the help of the naval tugs Grozavul and Viteazu. There were no casualties or injuries, and the entire 75-member crew arrived safely at the port of Constanta on 09 September. The Romanian Navy said there was no major damage on board and the ship will be repaired and serviced soon.
The Romanian Navy claims that this was the 28th mine detected in the Black Sea so far:
“This is the third sea mine to enter the area of responsibility of Romanian Naval Forces since the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian war. Until today, 28 naval mines have been destroyed in the western Black Sea, including three mines destroyed by Turkiye, two mines destroyed by Romania, one mine destroyed by Bulgaria, and 22 mines destroyed by Ukraine.”
The Floating Sea Mines in the Black Sea
The threat of sea mines reportedly first appeared after an Estonian general cargo ship sank after colliding with a mine off the coast of Odessa on 03 March 2022.
Two weeks after this incident, on March 18, the Russian coastal station Novorossisiyk issued a disturbing NAVTEX message (Navigational telex – an international service providing navigational and meteorological warnings and forecasts) stating that mines anchored by Ukrainian naval forces near the port of Odesa had loosened their chains due to stormy weather. The Novorossisiyk station claimed that about 420 mines were floating on the water and accused Ukraine of violating the provisions of the 1907 Hague Convention.
On the same day, the port of Sochi sent a warning to shipowners and masters in the region about the danger of an explosion of Ukrainian naval mines drifting in the Black Sea.
After the danger report from the Russian side, the Turkish NAVTEX station Samsun issued a warning to the mariners referring to the mine danger broadcasted by Russia.
Turkiye, Bulgaria, Romania, and Ukraine detected and neutralized naval mines following warnings from Black Sea littoral states, including Russia and Turkey. A list of these mines, compiled by Turkish naval observer Cem Devrim Yaylali (Bosphorus Naval News), can be found here.
You can read our analysis of the Sea Mine Threat in the Black Sea from the link below.